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February 2017

Fact checking universal basic income: can we transfer our way out of poverty?

Berk Ozler's picture
New York Times published an article last week, titled “The Future of Not Working.” In it, Annie Lowrie discusses the universal basic income experiments in Kenya by GiveDirectly: no surprise there: you can look forward to more pieces in other popular outlets very soon, as soon as they return from the same villages visited by the Times.

Helping Afghan farmers build better lives

Mohammad Hassan Ibrahimi's picture
Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy

I am a messenger between local farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL). That’s my role as provincial coordinator of the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP) for Daykundi Province. I lead agricultural trainings, visit farmers, oversee all project activities in the province—there is no typical day. I’m constantly working to understand and help improve the situation of Daykundi’s farmers. I usually learn as much from my interactions with farmers as I teach—one of the favorite parts of my job is when farmers share the wisdom they’ve gained farming the land for generations.
 
Most of the farmers we work with are very poor, and it is easy to see the direct impact our work has in improving their livelihoods and lives. In teaching basic horticultural skills, creating sustainable livelihoods, and giving farmers the resources they need, we are helping rebuild Afghanistan from the grassroots. With support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), NHLP works to promote the adoption of improved horticulture practices and spark grassroots efforts that will be self-sustaining beyond the direct work of our projects.
 
Since NHLP launched in Daykundi Province in 2014, we have established 1,400 jeribs, or 280 hectares, of grapes, almonds, apples, and apricots, and we’re working to build 18 water harvesting structures to improve irrigation across the province.

De-risking impedes access to finance for non-profit organizations

Emile van der Does de Willebois's picture



If you’ve opened a bank account in the last few years, you likely had to answer a bunch of more or less intrusive questions about yourself, your background and why you wanted to open the account. Annoying, but part and parcel of Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (“AML/CFT”) rules that all banks, in all parts of the world, are subject to.

The ostensible purpose is to enable banks to prevent bad actors using the financial system to launder their funds and, where bad actors are not identified at entry, to detect any suspicious financial activity and provide appropriate background to competent authorities. (Whether they are successful in this endeavour is another question.)

More recently large international banks have been upping the ante and have started to disengage altogether from clients from certain geographical regions or certain sectors because they consider the AML/CFT risks too great- a development known as “de-risking”. Often the business lines or countries exited are those that aren’t particularly profitable; the argument being that only a substantial profit margin justifies taking a larger than average risk. The amount of due diligence to be conducted on a customer cuts into that profit margin and the higher the perceived risk of that customer, the more the due diligence, the lower the profit.

One of the sectors particularly affected are non-profit organizations (NPOs). This is an unfortunate consequence of the mistaken and remarkably persistent idea that all NPOs pose a high AML/CFT risk. According to a report published earlier this month by the Charity and Security Network, two-thirds of U.S.-based NPOs working abroad are facing problems accessing financial services. Apart from account closures and account refusals, these also include delays in wire transfers and increased fees. 

As a result of these delays, they are sometimes forced to move money through less transparent, traceable, and safe channels. The prevalence and types of problems vary by program area, with NPOs working in peace operations/peacebuilding, public health, development/ poverty reduction, human rights/ democracy building, and humanitarian relief reporting the greatest difficulties. One NPO was prevented from sending immediate relief to the persecuted Rohingya minority in Myanmar in the midst of a dire humanitarian crisis. Timely transmittal of those funds might have saved lives, the charity’s director explained.
 

Bootcamps: Raising expectations for girls in math, science and technology

Juliana Guaqueta Ospina's picture
A Laboratoria classroom in Peru
Laboratoria, a nonprofit organization that runs six-month courses, targets girls from low-income families who face major barriers to accessing higher education. (Photo: Laboratoria)


Intensive “bootcamp” training programs that develop coding and other computer science skills and directly connect students with jobs are becoming increasingly popular. In the U.S, there are already over 90 bootcamps—and they are taking root in Latin America too, helping to close the region’s skills and gender gaps.

How to test water quality? Here are some low-cost, low-tech options

Jessica Anne Lawson's picture
Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) calls for “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water” by 2030, which is quite different from access to an “improved” water source, which has been our primary focus with the Millennium Development Goals. This makes water quality monitoring essential: how can we assess progress towards #SDG6 without knowing whether water is safe to drink?

Film for development

BBC Media Action's picture

This blog was originally posted on the BBC Media Action Insight blog by Melanie Archer, Digital Editor.

Films in the international development sector are often associated with fundraising but they can also serve as a form of aid in themselves. Films can help mothers manage a pregnancy, assist refugees as they navigate life in an unfamiliar country and influence perceptions of what politicians can achieve.

The annual Golden Radiator Awards is a prime opportunity to learn about some of the more creative films the international development sector has produced over the previous 12 months. From the creators of the seasonal (and satirical) Radi-Aid app, these Awards laud charity fundraising films that go beyond stereotypes in their storytelling.  

But what about films for people in development settings?  In parts of the world where radio is still king (though this is rapidly changing), it’s perhaps not surprising that there aren’t as many development films. But while not as plentiful in supply as those geared towards western audiences, examples of such films do exist and can be a powerful tool for meeting the needs of aid beneficiaries. Here are five examples. 

From Kakuma to Rio

FilmAid Broadcasts Olympics in Kakuma Refugee Camp

Is it too early to agree on SDG indicators for transport?

Muneeza Mehmood Alam's picture

 
In March, the international community of statisticians will gather in New York and Ottawa to discuss and agree on a global indicator framework for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the 169 targets of the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The task at hand is ambitious. In 2015, heads of state from around the world committed to do nothing less than “transform our world”. Monitoring progress towards this ambition is essential, but technically and politically challenging: it will require endorsement from all UN Member States on how to measure progress. In March, it will be the second attempt at getting this endorsement.

Why is it important? “What gets measured, gets done”. Measuring progress is essential for transparency and accountability. It allows us to understand our accomplishments and failures along the way, and identify corrective measures and actions—in short, it allows us to get things done.

What is the issue? Politically, the SDG process has been country led. This means that countries—and not international agencies, as in the case of the Millennium Development Goals—have guided the whole SDG process, including leading discussions and the selection of goals, targets and indicators.   Technically, the development of a robust and high-quality indicator framework is highly complex: the indicator should align closely with each target, have an agreed-upon methodology, and have global coverage. In reality, many indicators do not. For example, the indicator proposed to measure the 11.2 SDG target (“By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all”) is the “proportion of population that has convenient access to public transport”. Data is not yet available for this indicator. Additional indicators may be needed to cover all aspects of the target.

Is there something wrong with us economists?

Maurizio Bussolo's picture


We economists did not see the 2008 global financial crisis coming.

Nor did we anticipate, predict or, at least, warn people about the current wave of anti-trade, anti-immigration, and populism!?

To be fair, some economists were sounding alarms in the lead-up to the financial crisis. And even with the current backlash, although we may have missed the chance to predict it, many had warned that we were understating the impacts of global trade and that distributional tensions - the result of an unequal impact of globalization, technological change, and aging on certain groups - were mounting.

It seems very important – especially when considering the ongoing fierce rhetoric with which some policy proposals and decisions are described – to remain cool-headed, carefully analyze data, stay engaged and support reforms that are backed by solid evidence.

Weekly links Feb 24: school spending matters, nudging financial health, cash transfers bring giant snakes and blood magic, and more…

David McKenzie's picture
  • On the 74 million blog, interview with Kirabo Jackson about the importance of school spending and other education-related discussion: “In casual conversation with most economists, they would say, “Yeah, yeah, we know that school spending doesn’t matter.” I sort of started from that standpoint and thought, Let me look at the literature and see what the evidence base is for that statement. As I kept on looking through, it became pretty clear that the evidence supporting that idea was pretty weak.” Also discussion on the need to measure things beyond test scores.
  • IPA has a nice little booklet on nudges for financial health – a quick summary of the evidence for commitment devices, opt-out defaults, and reminders.

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